MONTREAL (NEWS 1130) – The Conservatives said he’s “just not ready” but a nation has declared otherwise, voting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals into power on Monday night in the country’s 42nd general election.
It’s not yet clear if the Liberals will form a minority or majority government. The Conservatives will form the official Opposition.
The tone was set early with the Liberals dominating in Atlantic Canada before the red tide began creeping west.
The grueling and costly 78-day election gave party leaders and hopeful MPs plenty of time to alienate or appeal to voters, with public opinion polls reflecting a series of shifts and swings that would ultimately see the Grits claw their way to power from third party status.
For weeks the airwaves were peppered with attack ads and party leaders squared off in five debates that touched on a range of topics, from the niqab and Syrian refugees, to pensions and public infrastructure.
The NDP watched a promising start fizzle. They were in the lead when the election began on August 2, but Thomas Mulcair failed to build on the early momentum and as summer faded, so did hopes for an orange crush.
Late opinion polls had the NDP falling into a distant third while Trudeau and Harper battled it out, with the Liberals gaining an edge down the stretch.
The lead would hold and decades after his famous father, Pierre, stepped down as Prime Minister in 1984, a Trudeau would once again reside at 24 Sussex Drive.
Justin Trudeau’s victory speech:
Like father, like son
Forty-seven years after Pierre Trudeau rolled to power with a Liberal majority, Trudeaumania has swept the nation again.
His son Justin has been re-elected in his riding of Papineau and won the confidence of Canadians, who voted his Grits to a modern-day majority, leaving Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats in his rear-view mirror.
Stephen Harper has been re-elected in his riding of Calgary-Heritage. The Conservatives will be the Official Opposition to a Liberal majority government. There are reports Harper will resign as the Conservatives’ leader.
The NDP leader has been re-elected in Outremont. Tom Mulcair says he’s thanked Stephen Harper.
“Despite our many differences on policy and on the way politics should be conducted, I thanked Mr. Harper for his service to our country. I congratulated Mr. Trudeau on his exceptional achievement for both him and his party. In this campaign Mr. Trudeau made ambitious commitments to Canadians, and Canadian will have high expectations for their next parliament.”
Campaign Roller Coaster:
Stephen Harper’s quest to become the first Prime Minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier to win four consecutive mandates got off to a rocky start.
Ten days after the election began, his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, took the stand at the criminal trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.
The Senate expense scandal dogged the Conservative leader, who was inundated with questions about the ongoing drama that roused the public’s anger and provided plenty of ammunition for his opponents.
As the trial got underway, Trudeau seized the opportunity to further bludgeon his rival, saying Harper “turned Ottawa into a partisan swamp.”
“He has led the most secretive, divisive and hyper-partisan government in Canada’s history,” he said.
But the Liberal leader would soon be on the receiving end after his campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, resigned in light of a report that said he sent lobbying advice about a controversial pipeline to officials at TransCanada Corp.
Just days before voters headed to the polls, Trudeau addressed the sudden controversy.
“He acted in an inappropriate way a few days ago and when we found out about it, we sat down with him and he chose to do the responsible thing and step down from our campaign…”
Both Harper and Mulcair pounced.
“You can’t trust the Liberals. It’s the same old Liberal party,” Mulcair said.
Harper added: “I think we should all understand that the culture of the Liberal party that gave us the sponsorship scandal has not changed and it will not change.”
According to the final opinion polls, Gagnier’s resignation didn’t affect Trudeau’s burgeoning run for Prime Minister, and he was widening his lead.
In a move that many felt wreaked of desperation, a reeling Harper hosted the controversial Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, at a Conservative rally in Etobicoke, with Doug taking to the podium.
“God help this country,” he said. “It would be an absolute disaster if Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were running this country.”
Trudeau, smelling blood, said Harper “should be embarrassed…to count on the support of Rob Ford for his re-election,” and on the last day of the election the Liberal leader confidently strolled into Harper’s turf to woo voters in Alberta.
The Liberals haven’t had an MP in Alberta since Anne McLellan lost her seat in 2006, but with the drastic decline in the once-thriving energy sector, Trudeau sensed a changing tide and made a spirited appeal.
“You deserve a government that doesn’t take your votes for granted, or that assumes it will have your votes because of where you live, and a government that understands that the time to invest in Alberta is now, when people need help.”
The battles and dramas that marked the long trail seemed to inspire voters to action.
More than three and a half million ballots were cast over four days of advanced polling, marking a 71 per cent increase over 2011 when advance polls were open for just three days.
With files from the Canadian Press